Super Bowl volunteer diary part 5: FAQ

A crew checks in the next shift at volunteer headquarters in downtown Minneapolis on Jan. 31, 2018.

Laura McCallum, MPR’s managing editor for daily news, is one of the 10,000 people volunteering during Super Bowl week. She’s been documenting her experience on NewsCut. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

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I’m done! I finished my third and final volunteer shift from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. as a Super Bowl LII volunteer.

Wednesday afternoon’s shift was pretty similar to my Sunday morning shift (just not so darn early). I worked the check-in counter, checking in volunteers for their shifts and handing out credentials.

The most dedicated volunteers I checked in were a couple from Rochester. They’d driven to Minneapolis in the morning, were working back-to-back skyway host shifts from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Then they were driving back home.

And I finally met the woman behind all of this. All the volunteers know who Elle Kehoe is. She is the woman in charge of this massive volunteer effort.

She managed volunteers for Super Bowl L in San Francisco two years ago, where volunteer attrition was much higher. She said it was about 50 percent by the end. As I’ve noted here, pretty much everyone has been showing up for their Crew 52 shifts, and you can’t miss the blue parkas all over downtown Minneapolis and in the skyways.

Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee director of volunteers Elle Kehoe

Since I’ve started blogging about this, I’ve gotten quite a few questions and concerns from readers. I ran them past Michael Howard, communications director for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. Here are a few questions from the mailbag with his responses.

1. Why does the host committee need 10,000 volunteers?

That number is in line with the number of volunteers at recent Super Bowls. More than 1 million  Minnesotans and visitors will attend Super Bowl events throughout the Twin Cities during our 10-day festival and our Crew 52 volunteers are critical to help our guests navigate the Twin Cities and have a great time while they’re here in the Bold North.

But even more so, our 10,000 volunteers are helping achieve one of our biggest goals when it comes to hosting the Super Bowl: To make sure Minnesota shines on the world’s largest stage. The warm welcome our volunteers are giving our guests are showing the world how great the people are here in Minnesota and we believe that can have a lasting positive impact for our state.

2. With all the money in sports, shouldn’t the NFL pay people to do these volunteer jobs?

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee is a 501c6 non-profit, raising all of our money privately, to put on a safe and successful Super Bowl where Minnesota shines. We are not the NFL and our Crew 52 volunteers get this. In both words and actions, our volunteers are embracing their role as ambassadors for Minnesota, giving our guests a warm welcome and lasting positive memory about Minnesota.

3. Are these volunteers taking away union jobs?

One of the significant benefits of hosting the Super Bowl is influx of jobs and work for Minnesotans we have seen, including our friends in labor. There are 2,000 to 3,000 union workers on Super Bowl related jobs doing things like building stages and working security, whereas our volunteers are primarily focused on greeting and welcoming guests.

And finally, I also got this question after my first shift:

4. Why would they make a member of the media scrub bathrooms?

I can answer that.

First of all, the volunteer captains making assignments each shift had no idea I was a member of the media and that’s the way I wanted it. I didn’t want any special treatment, I wanted to embed with the volunteers to get the same experience they were getting.

I went through the selection process just like everyone else. I filled out the application with my legal name (Laura McCallum Bryan), told my interviewer I was an editor, and after I was selected, told the host committee communications folks that I was picked as one of the volunteers.

I’ve been a journalist for decades, and I’ve done plenty of volunteer work in the community at various organizations. But I’ve never done anything like this, where I was part of an army of people putting in more than a dozen hours over the course of the week.

The only thing that I’ve really agonized over is what to do with the Crew 52 swag we were given.

Journalists have strict rules about not taking gifts for anything we cover. But does this count as payola? I received the uniform to wear to my three volunteer stints, not to write about the Super Bowl.

I’ve run this question past several colleagues, and they don’t think I’m ethically required to get rid of the gear. I’ve thought about donating the parka to a nonprofit (MPR?) to auction off. I will keep the polo and the Bold North mittens, they are showing a little wear and tear from the past few days and I honestly doubt anyone would pay for them!

What do you think?

MPR’s Laura McCallum with volunteers Patrick Olsen of Crystal, Amber Kern of Roseville and Greg Call of St. Paul staffing the check-in counter at volunteer headquarters in Minneapolis.